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Fossa Arrives at The Charles Paddock Zoo in time for Spring!

05 April 2024

The Charles Paddock Zoo is happy to announce the arrival of “Shelby,” a 13-year-old female Fossa! The Fossa is now on exhibit and can be seen by watchful visitors and in time for the last weekend of the Spring Festival! 

Image of the Charles Paddock Zoo's resident fossa named Shelby.

Shelby, a Fossa Cryptoptocta ferox, came to us from the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens through the Association of Zoo’s & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Fossa lifespans are unknown in the wild but are known to live to up to 20 years in Zoos. Although Shelby looks like a small cat or even a weasel, she is most closely related to mongoose or civet. The fossa is native only to the island nation of Madagascar off the coast of Africa and are the largest carnivores there. The locals pronounce the name “foo-sa” and “foosh”.  Shelby loves exploring all parts of her new habitat, as the fossa’s are just as comfortable in trees as they are on the ground. Being the largest predator and very agile in trees, their diets mainly consist of lemurs (don’t worry, they are in a separate exhibit!), but they’ll eat anything from small mammals to fish and birds. The fossa can be extremely smelly since they use scent as their main form of communication and do most of their vocalizing during mating season and pup season. The fossa is classified as vulnerable with only about 2,500 left in the wilderness. The low numbers are due to loss of habitat, competition for food with introduced species and diseases like rabies, as well as threats from the villagers who see them as vermin.

Visit the Zoo this weekend and enjoy the remaining days of the Spring Festival and learning all about Shelby the Fossa, as she will be the surprise for our animal feedings at 11:00 am on both Saturday and Sunday! Plus, remember to mark your calendar for the “Party for the Planet” Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 20th from 10 am until 3 pm! This family event that will focus on natural resource conservation and the global and local protection of animals and plants. A fun day for children of all ages, with interactive adventures, hands-on activities, exhibits by sustainability-conscious businesses, as well as providing many educational demonstrations like water conservation, beekeeping, and more. Food trucks will be on-site! Thank you to our platinum sponsor, Atascadero Mutual Water Company, our Gold sponsor, Waste Management, and our Silver sponsor, Solarponics! Thank you for your support in making these events possible!

Over 200 animal species to enjoy at the Zoo! Many of the Zoo residents are part of a globally managed program to preserve animals and their habitats. The Zoo features several unique species not often seen in facilities of our size, including fossa, red pandas, Malayan tiger, lemurs, and meerkats, as well as many other exciting and interesting mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Plus experience the animals up close! Unique gifts, as well as refreshments and strollers are available at the zoo gift shop. Adjacent to the Atascadero Lake Park, the zoo is the perfect destination for a day of fun, education, and relaxation.

Spring Festival and Party for the Planet are included with General Admission. Tickets are $13 Adults age 13+, $11 Seniors age 65+, $8 Children 5-12, $5 Children 3-4, and free for Kids 2 & under. The Charles Paddock Zoo is SLO County’s ONLY Zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Open Daily and located at Atascadero Lake Park on Hwy 41/Morro Road, one mile west of Hwy 101.  For information, go to or call the Zoo at (805) 461-5080.